Waiting for Headlights

My little brother gathered up his things, jeans, flannel shirts, sweatshirt at 4:30.  Hat, scarf, gloves, current favorite toy, Transformer or remote control car or video game or Walkman, all haphazardly shoved into his duffel bag. By 5:00, he was always completely ready to go.  His father was to pick him up at 6:00…it was his weekend.

He barely ate dinner on those nights, he was too excited.  He was so quiet, playing in his mind the weekend ahead.  He had been thinking about it all day.  He would have two nights and two days until his father would bring him back home.

I remember how he sat at the dining room table, his feet not quite reaching the floor.

His dirty sneakers, worn, the white rubber trim flapping as he swung his antsy legs. Purchased too big to last just a bit longer, but worn before he even grew into them.  Laces pulled tight, double knotted.

And he waited, focusing on his black digital watch as the minutes crept by.

He would alternately stare out the window, waiting to see his father’s headlights as he turned off the road and drove up the driveway, and put his head down on the table, intently listening for the sounds of his father’s tires as they crunched down the gravel driveway.




At 6:15, my brother would call him. Of course there would be no answer. He would tell himself that his father must be on his way to pick him up.

At 6:30, he would call him again.  No answer. Perhaps he was just running late.

Again at 6:45, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00.

Finally he would reach his father, who would act genuinely surprised.

He had forgotten. His weekend?  Really?  Was my brother sure?

Well, it was so late. Perhaps they could just do it next weekend? No big deal, right? Okay, buddy?

As each weekend slipped away and my brother grew older, his response to his disappointment changed.  From tears and anger, to withdrawal and deep pain wearing the cloak of indifference.

And each time his father overlooked him, a piece of my brother’s innocence broke away.

His willingness to believe in others, diminished.

I watched my once-tender and silly brother erode until the day arrived when his father was no longer his hero, until no one really was.

He was left behind, abandoned by his father, who had begun a new life, with new responsibilities and new children to look after.

A disposable boy, my brother.

This post is part of my NaNoWriMo memoir and is in response to both Red Writing Hood prompts at The Red Dress Club.


  1. The_BMG onefootstuck.blogspot.com

    Oh. I'm just speechless. Oh. That poor boy. I want to hug him. To make it all better.

  2. Yuliya shesuggests.com/

    And my heart is breaking. Can't wait read that memoir of yours. Stocking up on handkerchiefs…

  3. Rachel mommyneedsavacation.com

    Beautiful writing. Poor guy!!! I feel so badly.

  4. Varda (Squashedmom) squashedmom.com

    Goodness, Nichole, you really know how to wrench a heart. As hard as it was for you to lose your father to death, at least you could comfort yourself with knowing it was not his choice to not be there with you. This? This? I can't imagine how this kind of parental rejection could not turn to stone inside a person's heart forever. I don't know enough of you to know your brother's story. Did he get over it, heal? Or did it eat away at him and hollow out his soul permanently?

    Beautiful writing, I am so glad you are committed to the book.

  5. My heart hurts. Your writing is always so raw and beautiful, but there is something about a child so excrutiatingly disappointed that really cuts into the soul :( Poor little guy.

  6. Kathy

    Nichole, your writings amaze me. Although I know this is your brother's story and my heart breaks for his hurt. What also touched me is in the moments it took to read this entry, I was riveted to the time and memories of two other waiting so intently for their father, you captured the raw emotion, it truly touched me.

  7. Peggy

    So beautifully written Nichole. Your description of what happens to a child in this situation is so true.

  8. That is so heartbreaking! I am curious to know what kind of man your brother is today.

  9. Alexandra174

    This is exactly what my niece has told me this situation feels like.

    How easy it is to not realize someone else's perspective.

    I lost my father, as you know, at age 6, to suicide.

    My niece's father left her and my sister when my niece was an infant.

    I remember once saying, "well, at least you have your father" and she looked at my in stunned shock and replied, "at least your father doesn't see you because he's dead, not because he doesn't want to!"

    That shut me up.

    I had never realized, but that's what it feels like, and you've noted it here exactly right.

    I'm going to have her come read this.

    Thank you

  10. KLZ taminginsanity.com

    Well, it's not wonder you're crushing NaNo. Your writing is so effortlessly beautiful. I can't wait to read your book.

  11. this breaks my heart. every child deserves the love of a father AND a mother. my heart hurts for your brother. you portrayed this scene with deep emotion.

  12. Oh, Nic, this was heartbreaking! Not just becaùse yoù write so beautifully that one can imagine it, but I could remember it. I remember watching my brothrs crumble.

  13. Jackie withjustabitofmagic.com

    You're an amazing writer. Such a sad situation and even more so because it happens so often. More so than it should. I've watched a similar situation like this happen with my oldest daughter and her dad. She's now almost 15 and hasn't seen or heard from him in a few years. Really, he's the one missing out. All parents are the dismiss their children so easily.

  14. NaNoWriMo and both prompts? You amaze me. I feel your brother's pain, and your sisterly love for him. You are really such a brilliant writer.

    I would love to get your thoughts on my very short take on this week's prompt, if you have time.

  15. I feel that very deeply, which I think you knew I would.

    But that is mostly because you wrote it so very, very well.

    Incredible, dear one.

  16. Kim thechild-kim.blogspot.com/

    Makes you want to work hard to keep the marriage intact so your kids never have to go through this.

  17. What a stirring story. Your words at the end, "disposable boy" are still with me.

  18. amanda

    Hi there — trying to visit all of the Red Riding Hood's today.

    This piece is like the grandfather of childhood disappointment. So very sad. And, "disposable boy?" Chilling. Well done.

  19. Ratz ratz-whatcanisay.blogspot.com/

    Oh dear…. it was heart wrenching to read this. it just keeps me reminding that children are so vulnerable… it is so hard to have them grow without affecting their innocence. good work Nichole

  20. Adelle readygogetset.com

    This is so much like my husband's childhood – it was very real to me! I felt like I was in the room with all of his hope. So well done and congrats on going for NaNoWriMo! I would love to read more.

  21. Renee 2old2tap.blogspot.com

    This left me heartsick for yor brother.
    How wrong this was. How callous.

    Your writing is wonderful, and it flows from your heart.

  22. my heart just broke reading this. I wanted to wrap that little boy in my arms and tell him that the only family that matters is the one that's right there.

    wonderfully written, friend!

  23. CDG

    Such damage done so casually. You capture the erosion of hope so vividly.

    My heart hurts.

  24. Christine Marie

    This one hits close to home for me…for my son. Well done…again. ;)

  25. This one hits too close to home. Beautifully written though.

  26. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    I want to hug him too. It was such a sad thing for him.

  27. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    You may need them!

  28. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thanks, Rachel.
    I will never understand how his father could let him down over and over again.

  29. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    I think that he has healed as much as he ever will.
    He has four beautiful children and he is making up for all of the pain he suffered by being ever-present for them.

    The book is a bigger undertaking than I could have ever imagined. I will probably always remember this month as the saddest month I've experienced in years. I will welcome December with happiness and I'll be writing something less emotional next year!

    Thank you for coming by and cheering me on…it means the world.

  30. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    It was tough because that kind of disappointment is isolating. I mean, he lived with the constant reminder that he wasn't the most important thing in his father's world.
    No child should ache like he did.

    Thank you for your kind words on my writing. I truly appreciate them. :)

  31. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    You don't know what to do in that situation, do you, Kathy?
    You can say, their father's a jerk, but that doesn't make it better, because no child wants to hear that.
    You can't make excuses for their father, because that's just like saying that they aren't important.

    It was terrible to see him go through that. It's a wonder they have any sort of relationship at all today.

  32. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you, Aunt Peggy.
    I wish that you had known him when he was little, before he was so hurt.
    He was giggly and sweet.
    Now he's all grown up (although he can still be rather goofy!).
    Love you.

  33. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    He's a good father to his own children (all four!!!).
    He has a protective wall up, though, for everyone else.
    I don't know how he couldn't after all that.

  34. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    I think that his father had forgotten what it was like to be a child and to feel small and forgotten.
    As an adult, weeks fly by, but when you're a child and you are counting down the days, anticipating what's to come, the time just creeps by.

    The moments watching him wait were excruciating, but even worse was watching him change over time. Seeing him go from optimistic to discouraged and disillusioned was heartbreaking.

    I hope that your niece was able to find peace and come to realize that he father's unforgivable behavior wasn't about her…it was about him.

    It was so hard on my mother too, because she always felt so saddened that I didn't have a father, so she vowed that she would make sure that my brother did. And then to see that not turn out the way she had dreamed was heartbreaking for everyone.

    Thank you for sharing your story with me…my love to your niece.

  35. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you, my sweet friend.
    I'm looking forward to yours as well!

  36. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you, Grace.

    You're right. Every child deserves the love of both of his parents. They also deserve to feel special and important.

    It was painful to watch.

  37. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    I wonder if it's tougher on boys when a father leaves?
    I'm not saying that it's easy for girls (I know firsthand that it isn't), but I wonder if boys need that strong father figure more. I don't know.
    Either way, it's just terrible.

  38. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you, Jackie.

    It happens far too often. Your daughter's father is indeed missing out. And the saddest part is that often those absentee dads reenter the picture and can't understand why their children aren't willing to forge a relationship with them.

  39. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm truly working on my writing and I'm hoping that like all things, it keeps improving with practice.

    I popped over and left you some thoughts on your wonderful piece. ;)

  40. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you, my lovely friend.
    For everything…the support, the kind words, and your friendship.

  41. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Absolutely. One hundred percent, yes!

  42. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you so much for your kind words.

  43. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you so much, Amanda.
    Oh, how I wish that the term "disposable boy" could never be used to describe him.

  44. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you so much, Ratz.
    I've said it a zillion times, but we only get one childhood, a childhood that serves as the foundation for everything we are. So sad when that isn't cherished and nurtured.

  45. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you, Adelle.
    There's a lot more…like thousands and thousands of words. ;) NaNo is kicking my butt! :)

    Your post was excellent today, by the way!

  46. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you, my kind and loyal friend. So very much.

  47. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you, Renee.
    It really was callous. The way that his father would just brush it off and tell him that they'd just do it another time was heartbreaking.

    Thank you for your encouraging words on my writing. With NaNo, I'm growing really tired of reading my own words. I'm relieved that there are people who aren't! ;)

  48. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Thank you so much, Andy.
    Hard to believe that that little boy is now over six feet tall and has four children of his own.

  49. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    My heart hurts too.
    Both for the memory of those nights and also for the walls that he has up to this day.
    So much damage.

  50. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    I am so sorry that you know firsthand what this is like. It must tear you up to see your little guy's father overlook him. I hope that he sees his mistakes and does right by your son.

  51. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    Unfortunately, as I was writing this, I knew that my brother wasn't the only child who knows this kind of pain. It is so heart wrenching.
    Thank you so very much for your kind words on my writing.
    So lovely to have you come by.

  52. Christine Marie

    My solace is that my husband is an amazing father and has always treated him like his own. My son is 10 now and has given up hoping for his dad to see him. He's lucky to have an aunt, uncle and grandfather who care and come to pick him up once every couple of months to hang out with him. Even if all they can find time for is dinner.

    Even with 3 families worth of love, there is still one person, who should be there, that isn't. That, in itself, is enough for a fragile young ego to crack. He sees him maybe twice a year…because his sister will arrange something for the family and he actually shows up. It's sad to think that he doesn't even care what an intelligent, creative, sweet, funny kid he has missed out on. His loss.

  53. Marian runawaysentence.com

    aw, Nichole. so heartbreaking. i want to know how your brother is now.

  54. naturegirl21

    this is why I sometimes think you should have to have a license before you can reproduce. So many children abandoned and disappointed by thoughtless adults.

    Poor boy

  55. ksluiter

    this is unbelievably heartbreaking. My brother wasn't with his son's mother (they are now, but not for the past 6 years), and he told me it was his goal that his son NEVER feel like this. I never understood, other than that, ok, he wanted to be there for him. But somehow my brother knew that it wasn't just about fun…it was about trust and having a dad.

    People who so casually break a child this way make me angry…and sad…but mostly angry.

  56. Sandra absolutelynarcissism.com

    I'm sure this touched a few hearts…wow…

  57. kris

    In my own writing, I have used the phrase "casual cruelty" to refer to the enormous pain and harm that can be done by those who act thoughtlessly.

    Or more accurately, by those who act only thinking of themselves.

    I feel the pain and harm here.


  58. C.Mom lacaramamma.com

    So incredibly powerful. This hits close to home for me- but in a different way. It makes me so appreciative that Principessa's dad is so involved and was so adamant about wanting time to be 50/50. It makes schedules difficult for us as adults- but she knows that she has each of us for a week. Beautifully written!

  59. Oh, wow. This hurts. I could really feel it. Beautiful job, really.

  60. I so dearly hope I am able to fill some of the void from their biological mother's lack at interest and ability to be any kind of mother to them. I worry for the feeling of my children as they grow, and this is exactly why.

Add a comment

(required, won’t be displayed)

About this post